I read the singers’ forums quite frequently and one favorite topic, especially among younger singers, is teacher recommendations. Students are rightly concerned with who seems to be the most effective teacher, but sometimes they will also mention “and she is a great singer herself” or they will refer to the teacher’s (usually past) performing career.
What level of singing ability is “good enough” for teaching? I feel that I can illustrate principles of technique, but I am not at a level that most students would want to emulate. This may be a good thing, since it reduces imitation and encourages students to apply the principles to their own voices more authentically. Also, when I am engrossed in a lesson, I find myself unable to suddenly get into the “singing zone” while sitting at the piano and focusing on the other person. Therefore, I rarely sing optimally in a lesson.
I do a little performing, and this season I hope that some of my students will come and hear me at my little gigs. They are likely to hear something a little different than the bits and pieces I demonstrate in the studio, and that is good. I think we need it for our own artistic spirit if nothing else. Our local NATS organization had a teachers’ recital in 2008 that was great fun. I would gladly sing in several of those per year! It was a great time.
Also, I think it is very important for singing teachers who still love singing to continue to study with a teacher, at least once in a while. It is an old and obvious fact that we cannot hear ourselves and help ourselves as well as a trusted teacher (or coach) can, but I wonder how many of my teaching age-mates still study? I have plenty of work to do to improve my own singing, and I do not hide the fact that I still study from my students. It is my hope that they will understand that the work never stops, and that it is satisfying and gratifying to continue to work and improve.
I don’t think it matters whether the teacher is a grade A singer, but there may be some level of “good enough” that is helpful in most cases. The true measure of a singing teacher is in the improvement of the students, after all, isn’t it? Whether the teacher can achieve this with a so-so voice or a fabulous voice is not so important as results. However, it does please me greatly when I demonstrate for students and I find myself illustrating the point better as time goes on.